Daoism may be, but less the god praying type. The philosophical Daoism that can think out of the box, turn useless to usefulness and build something from nothing.
You can be full of drive and confidence, but there is no guarantee you will succeed and get to top of the world. Why? It is because of the X factor – imagination, dream, innovation and creativity.
So far, most of Singapore successes are associated with organisation efficiency and effectiveness. It means we are well organised, disciplined, productive and orderly, like the airport, seaport, even the public transport system. We manage to do it by what we call Asian way or Confucianism influence plus the Western scientific management.
However, organisation, hardware and measurable are easy to improve and other countries can learn and overtake you. This is why many Asian newly industrial countries are able to catch up with the West and even doing better than the West.
But to achieve higher growth (especially quality growth), or to be different from others, you need intelligence – thinking out of the box in a non-traditional way. That is why you need philosophical Daoism to upgrade the thinking level – higher level of drive, confidence, innovation and creativity.
The PAP government should not only worry and complain about the lack of drive and confidence of Singapore students. Innovation and creativity are even more critical that the government finds no way to solve it at the moment. SUTD, some may suggest but who know, especially under OB maker, press control and lack of freedom of information?
When other students are as hardworking as us, or even more hardworking than us, it means our Confucianism value is diluting or disappearing. This is especially true when we are moving away from our Asian roots and become more international, we certainly will lose the Confucianism influence (of course, the decline of Chinese language and culture standard makes the situation worst).
When we become richer, we will want to enjoy and use more brain and less hand. Unless our brain is creative and innovative enough to make up the loss of (hand) productivity, otherwise the country’s competitiveness will decline.
Strange! The government still emphasizes labour productivity improvement and not the brain productivity of ideas, innovations and dreams. Think! One dream project like the past success of Nokia or even Skype can create many quality jobs and pay for Singaporeans. Perhaps, the government is too afraid to have such an alternative minds and dreams!
In future competition, Singapore risks not only losing in drive and confidence but also in spirit and dream.
Confucianism and Daoism in a simple way
To make the discussion simple, you can just say Confucianism is government or governance that provides the basic structure and rules of operation. And Daoism is intelligence, spirit and philosophical thinking, not practical at all and if you are hungry, it cannot fill your stomach. Since Singapore is so rich, and our economy needs quality growth, as PM Lee said our poor was better than poor in other places, so dream thinking is necessary for quality growth.
However, the sad thing about Singapore is we have lost our Confucianism value (so do Malay and Indian traditional values), and on the other hand we are unable to upgrade our mind spiritually and philosophically.
The result will be…
On one hand, Singapore Chinese are losing the Confucianism value and on the other hand, they have no knowledge of Daoism. What we see and know about Daoism is Chinese temples, praying, and even superstition.
No wonder when we are doing business in China, we catch no ball. We don’t know what they are thinking about even though we understand Mandarin.
Why Daoism is important? It makes you think of the impossible, the spirit height, the uselessness, and the emptiness and of course you have to accept less discipline, less organised, less rational and less productive (especially in the beginning stage).
In the current stage of world development, the Westerners are the good users of Daoism (or similar Western philosophy). Look at Apple, Facebook, Skype, Google and even Microsoft, Dell, green energy, all these begin like stupid projects or had less successful elements.
Look further at the structured financial products, unit trusts, funds, all these are sitting on some physical assets but they are nothing if you remove the real assets. This is why the investment bankers are making more money than traditional bankers! Investment banking is innovative, creative and traditional banking is governance and works within the framework.
Daoism makes and creates something out of nothing. They make possible some unthinkable ideas and transform unnecessary to become necessary.
China now and future
Since 1979 until now, Confucianism value is the driving force of China economy. Even the big project items, like high speed train, mega infrastructure projects, are still the continuation of Confucianism practice. They have yet to exercise their Daoism ideas in uplifting the country. They mention about soft power, they spread the Confucius institutes, they talk about peaceful growth, do we really know the meaning? It is an ever evolving change and we are unable to give a definitive answer to the development.
No matter China’s future is a socialist, communist or free market economy, the future of China will have input from Confucianism and Daoism, perhaps plus the influence of Buddhism, Christianity and Islamism.
Quite sad, isn’t it?